Hamilton officials, hoping to win train stations along two Amtrak routes, are planning to build station platforms in two likely places — in Symmes Park, south of downtown; and along Maple Avenue, near where the city plans to move the historic Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad station this spring.
Director of Engineering Rich Engle on Wednesday told City Council it would cost about $400,000 apiece to build two station platforms to accommodate stops if they are added in Hamilton:
- For the Cardinal Line route, which links Cincinnati with Indianapolis and Chicago (and east of Cincinnati, Washington, D.C.), the plan is to build platforms on both sides of the CSX tracks at the city’s 3.8-acre Symmes Park, which takes up most of the block between Third and Fourth streets. It’s just east of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and west of where the northbound CSX railroad tracks split from those heading to Indianapolis. Oxford also will have a stop on that route.
- If Hamilton also is added to the proposed “3C+D” route that would link Cincinnati with Dayton, Springfield, Columbus and Cleveland, officials are focusing on the Maple Avenue area where the historic station, built in the 19th century, will be moved, probably in in April or May, from its current location at the CSX tracks and Martin Luther King Boulevard. Some experts have said i s less likely for Hamilton to be a part of than the route to Chicago because plans in recent years would have placed the nearest station to Butler County in Sharonville.
Each proposed platform, consisting of a 300-to-400-foot-long concrete platform with rain shelters and decorative lighting, would cost about $400,000. Of that cost, Engle said $125,000 would be for the concrete platform; $30,000 for the rain canopy; $50,000 for lighting; $20,000 for sidewalks; with most of the rest for construction drawings, geotechnical studies and site work.
Moving the historic train station
In related news, Engle also told council the city last week advertised for bids for companies to pour the foundations for the historic train station’s two buildings, and those bids are due next week. The contractors are required to have the foundations completed by March 31. The concrete needs to be cured before the buildings can be placed on them.
The tentative date to move the buildings is between mid-April and late May, and the city is in contact with CSX about extending the deadline to have the station moved by another 60 days, from late March.
Council last year voted to save both the station’s buildings by moving them, noting the depot hosted visits by presidents Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover. CSX had wanted to demolish the abandoned buildings.
What needs to happen
With the passage in November of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill, hopes were buoyed about the possibilities Hamilton and Middletown might get stations, with Middletown also being a possibility for the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland route.
The federal legislation contains $66.6 billion for expansion of Amtrak services, with a question being whether Gov. Mike DeWine and state lawmakers will agree to accept the federal money for infrastructure improvements. Over time, the state would be required to pay some Amtrak operating costs, a factor that led former Gov. John Kasich to return $400 million to the federal government that would have helped a similar expansion.
Vice Mayor Michael Ryan on Wednesday told his colleagues he had spoken with state Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) and state Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester), “because at this point in the game, now the state needs to get involved to get these plans going so we can get the trains coming through town again, and they are 100-percent behind this initiative, they’re excited for the city, and they are going to go to bat for us.”
The train platforms “are going to be another platform to the city,” Ryan said.
“I think it would be a wonderful help for us,” Carruthers told the Journal-News. “I have always wanted to take a train to things, so I think it would be great. I think it would be a lot of fun, besides everything else, to be honest.”
She plans to meet soon with Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks, “so I really don’t know all the details just yet,” Carruthers said.
“We’ll see what happens,” she added. “I don’t want to get on board until we know the money’s there and we can pay for all of it and everything else, but I think it’s a great idea.”